CBI chargesheet nails aides in Sonali Phogat murder case

Having probed into the August 23 shocking murder of Haryana’s BJP leader and a TikTok celebrity Sonali Phogat in Goa, the CBI in its chargesheet filed recently, has claimed she was killed by her two aides with a motive to grab her property,  reports Rajesh Moudgil

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its about 500-page chargesheet in the Haryana BJP leader and TikTok star Sonali Phogat’s murder case in the wee hours of August 23, filed before the Mapusa court in Goa recently, has held that she was killed by her two aides, namely, Sudhir Sangwan and Sukhwinder Singh, who were accompanying her in Goa reportedly for a shoot of a film, with an aim to usurp her property.

The court has listed the next hearing for December 5 for further arguments in the case.

Though, the Goa police had initially opined that Sonali had died of a heart attack, but later leaned towards the murder angle after the family insisted it was a planned murder by her aides with a motive to grab her property. Subsequently, however, more damning evidence surfaced. Even the post-mortem report revealed multiple blunt force injuries on her body, necessitating further probe by the police.

Meanwhile, Sonali’s younger brother Rinku Dhaka who had rushed to Goa after getting news about his sister’s death the next day, in his complaint alleged that Sonali was brought to Goa on the pretext of some film shoot by the two accused.

Rinku told police that accused Sangwan told the family members that a film shooting was on August 24, though it was learnt that the hotel rooms were booked for only two days – August 22 and August 23. Moreover, there was no shooting nor any actors to be seen, he told police.

Rinku further told police in his complaint that she had spoken to her brother-in-law Aman Punia on August 22, and had alleged she was not feeling well and that she had been served food laced with some intoxicant.

He further held that his sister had also told Punia that Sangwan and his friend had committed a theft at her house in Hisar about three years ago and that she would lodge a case with the police when she returned to Hisar, her home-town.

He further held in his complaint that his sister had also said that Sangwan had given her some intoxicant, made a video with her and was threatening to make the video viral on social media in the past. He further held that Sangwan had kept her two mobile phones, property documents and house keys in his possession.

Based on Riku’s complaint, the Goa police thus registered a case of murder against Sonali’s personal assistant (PA) Sudhir Sangwan and his accomplice Sukhwinder Singh, under Section 302 of IPC and other charges and started investigation. Both accused were arrested from Goa by the local police soon after.

However, the family of Sonali Phogat demanded investigation by the CBI while expressing dissatisfaction over the investigation by the Goa police, following which the Haryana police also recommended to the Goa government to transfer the case to the CBI in view of the demand of the family members. The CBI, thus, took over the probe into the death of Sonali Phogat in Goa in September and re-lodged the FIR on a reference from the union ministry of home affairs. The teams of the CBI, along with the CFSL experts, conducted a thorough analysis of the crime scene and forensic material.

Subsequently, according to reports, the police arrested five persons in connection with the case, including the two named in the CBI chargesheet, two alleged drug suppliers, Dattaprasad Gaonkar and Rama Mandrekar, and the owner of the restaurant Edwin Nunes. According to media reports, it was alleged that Gaonkar had provided drugs to Sukhwinder Singh and Sangwan and that Mandrekar had sold the drugs to Gaonkar.

The police after getting the inputs from the CCTV grabs of August 22, found that Sonali Phogat who could be seen unable to barely walk on her own after the “drink’’ forced by Sangwan, was taken to the hotel, Grand Leonny, by her associates where they were staying. Subsequently, she was rushed to St Anthony’s Hospital a few hours later, where she was declared brought dead.

According to police, Sonali was brought dead to the St Anthony’s Hospital at Anjuna in the wee hours of August 23 after she spent the previous night at the Curlies’ nightclub, where she was allegedly drugged with methamphetamine (MDMA) by Sangwan and Sukhwinger Singh, the two persons who accompanied her to the club.

In the earlier CCTV footage of the restaurant, she was seen dancing with Sangwan, police said, adding that another video showed Sonali being escorted out of the restaurant by her aides and she could be seen staggering and almost falling near the staircase on her way out.

The arrests

The CBI which took over the probe from the Goa Police around mid-September after the Haryana government acceded to demands from her family and wrote to the Union government, said in its chargesheet that Sangwan and Sukhwinder Singh had been charged under section 302 of the IPC with sections 34 and 36.

Pertinently, earlier, Edwin Nunes, the owner of Curlies restaurant, was arrested by the Telangana police from Anjuna in Goa in a drug case. He was among the five persons arrested after the death of Sonali Phogat, though he was later let out on bail.

Nunes is among dozens of drug dealers wanted by the police in Hyderabad, following a drug-bust in Telangana three months ago.

Phogat hailed from Hisar district in Haryana. A former TikTok star with a huge following and a contestant on the reality TV show “Big Boss’’ in 2020, Sonali, 43, had arrived in Goa with her two male aides – Sudhir Sangwan and Sukhwinder Singh – a day before the incident. She had joined BJP in 2008. She had contested the 2019 assembly polls, as had faced a drubbing at the hands of Kuldeep Bishnoi, then a Congress leader who recently joined BJP. Her husband, Sanjay Phogat, who was active in politics and social activities, had died six years ago. She was also in the news when she publicly thrashed a government official for allegedly making indecent remarks against her in June, 2020.